Contractors say these are the smartest home upgrades you can make under $35

Low prices — but big impact for your space.

Contractors say these are the smartest home upgrades you can make under $35
ByErin Celletti and BDG Commerce
Originally Published: 
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When you hear the word “contractor” you might think “expensive” — and sure, quality work around the house can (and usually does) cost a pretty penny. But not today. We tapped contractors and home improvement experts to find out some of their favorite ways you can upgrade your living space without blowing your budget. Here’s what they had to say, along with some highly rated Amazon products you can use to make those recommended upgrades — all for under $35 each.


This easy-to-install bidet for a serious bathroom upgrade

And finally, if you really want to add a luxurious bathroom experience for less than the cost of a dinner out, go with a bidet attachment. Mello says, “It's made to fit on any regular toilet and only takes minutes to set up. It cleans itself and doesn't need any complicated plumbing to work.” Plus it’s eco-friendly and budget-friendly — reducing toilet paper waste without using any extra electricity.


The window-insulating film that reduces your heating bill

Contractors have invaluable knowledge when it comes to increasing the efficiency of your home. If you’re wanting to save on monthly expenses, Borcherding advises using a window insulation kit. “You can reduce air infiltration and lower your heating bills by making use of insulating window film,” he explains. The crystal-clear film applies directly to the thinnest barriers of your home (the windows) and secures in place when you heat it up with a hair dryer. You’ll generally need to remove the film in the summer, then reapply in the winter. But at less than $20 — and with just a few minutes of work — it’s a worthwhile investment.


This privacy film that still lets sunlight through your windows

Borcherding has another window trick up his sleeve: This frosted film, which “can help you achieve better privacy and energy efficiency.” Borcherding notes that it can also help you reach your aesthetic vision for a space “without having to replace your windows.” The film is an easy replacement for curtains, but still allows natural light to filter in. You can also use it for interior partitions or glass cabinets. It can be trimmed to size, and secures to any glass surface via static cling and water, and removes without leaving any residue behind.

  • Available styles: 7


The weather-sealing tape that improves insulation

Want to improve your home’s energy efficiency? Khachani says, “Seal gaps around windows and doors with inexpensive weather stripping kits.” He elaborates, saying that it’s a great way to “reduce heating and cooling costs, improve energy efficiency, and keep your home comfortable.” This weather-sealing tape can be trimmed to size, and has a self-adhesive backing for a secure fit. It’s an easy way to fill in gaps and block drafts.


The shelf dividers that help you stay neat & organized

Closet shelves need organizing, too. Dunn recommends these acrylic shelf dividers because they “are perfect for the bag lover in your life,” helping to keep purses upright and “giving them room to breathe.” Whether you use them for purses, sweaters, towels, or jeans, the dividers help keep things in place, so they don’t spill over. Not to mention, they make it easy to locate items at a glance.


The wall decals that are super easy to apply

To add a bit of style and flair to your home, Cherniak recommends giving wall decals a try. He says, “These are affordable and come in various designs, allowing you to customize your space without the need for paint or wallpaper.” This 120-count set of abstract wall decals comes in five different styles and is super easy to apply — just peel and stick. If and when you remove them, they leave no residue behind, and they’ll last for up to five years without fading or falling off.

  • Available styles: 5


The floating shelves that put unused wall space to work

Thomas Borcherding, owner of Homestar Design Remodel in St. Louis, notes that there’s often unused wall space both in bathrooms and living rooms — but it shouldn’t go to waste. “An easy and affordable method to make use of this space is to utilize open shelving,” he advises. These floating wooden shelves measure 16 inches across and can handle up to 22 pounds of weight. In the living room, they’re perfect for displaying small plants and picture frames, and in the bathroom they’re great for storing bath essentials and air freshener. You can even mount them to your kitchen wall and use them as storage for spices and condiments.

  • Available shades: 4


A pens that revive the look of grout

If your bathroom or kitchen is looking a bit dingy, Borcherding says, “You can breathe new life into any tiled area by touching up your grout.” And it’s easier to do than you might think. “Grout pens are a genius solution that make improving your grout lines exceptionally easy,” Borcherding explains. This grout pen covers up to 150 feet of grout and features a non-toxic, water-based formula. It comes in narrow- and wide-tip options to suit your needs — all that’s left for you to do is color inside the lines.


These under-cabinet lights for kitchens, closets & more

Want to add an upscale element to your home? Try accent lighting. “Under-cabinet lighting is all the rage right now in the kitchen design world,” Borcherding says. And you don’t have to spend a pretty penny to get it, either. “Thanks to inexpensive LED lights, this sought-after feature is easily accessible.” This light strip, for example, can be trimmed to size and has an adhesive backing that lets you apply it to the underside of cabinets, vanities, and closet ceilings. The strip is dimmable and comes in warm white and daylight options.

  • Available options: 2


A faucet aerator that saves on water usage

Mehdi Khachani, CEO of JMK Plumbing in Miami, recommends installing aerators on both your kitchen and bathroom faucets. This budget-friendly and eco-conscious upgrade “will reduce water usage without compromising water pressure,” he explains. It attaches to any faucet and features a swiveling ball joint, so you can angle the water wherever you want it. Plus, you can still toggle between an aerated spray and a full-pressure spray. Choose from chrome, brushed nickel, and matte black options.

  • Available finishes: 3


This scrubbing brush that’s way more effective than a manual one

For those hard-to-reach, hard-to-clean spaces, Khachani recommends, “versatile, budget-friendly tools” like this power scrubber by Rubbermaid. Saving time and elbow grease while tackling tough stains, the brush rotates 60 times per second and can scrub up to two times faster than a manual approach. It’s ideal for tiny spaces like the areas around faucets, handles, and showers — but you can even use it to scrub car wheels and sneakers, too.


A brass switch plate with a designer-grade aesthetic

Sometimes it’s the little things that level up your home’s design. “Elevate your home's aesthetic by replacing standard switch plate covers with decorative options,” Khachani says. “This simple change adds a stylish touch without breaking the bank.” For a luxe aesthetic, try this switch plate with a brushed brass finish. It’s easy to swap out with your existing switch cover and comes with matching hardware for a seamless look. There are also options available for double switches, dimmers, and wall sockets.

  • Available options: 40


The insert that makes any drawer a spice drawer

Sarah Dunn, founder of Ready, Set, Organize in southern California says that there’s a two-part way to step up your spice storage game. The first step? Start with this acrylic spice drawer insert, “which will help create a spice drawer that's so much better than a cabinet or countertop organizer, thanks to the visibility of all the spices.” Crafted with durable acrylic, it’s available in two sizes and holds the jars at a slanted, easy-to-view angle.


A set of aesthetically pleasing spice jars with labels

The second thing you’ll need to elevate your spice jar game? A pack of matching spice jars with labels. Dunn says, “The cohesive look of these jars puts your mind at ease when searching for a particular spice.” And we happen to think these mini glass jars with airtight seals are great for organization and quite beautiful to look at, too. The set is dishwasher safe for when it comes time to swap your spices, and comes with 160 preprinted labels, so they’re ready to go.


These drawer organizers that can tackle even the junkiest of junk drawers

Junk drawers, be gone. To maximize storage space and minimize chaos, every drawer should have its own set of small bins to keep things in order — like this 22-piece set of drawer organizers. Dunn says, “From makeup drawers to desk drawers to the kitchen junk drawer, these are our favorite, go-to drawer organizers because they don't slide around, come in different sizes, are easy to clean, and interlock in most drawers perfectly.” Plus, with a 4.7-star overall rating from Amazon reviewers, they’re crowd approved, too.


These smart plugs that can be voice controlled

An instant upgrade we can all use in our homes? Smart plugs. Shlomo Cherniak, founder of Cherniak Handyman Services in Baltimore, says, “Use smart plugs to control your electronic devices remotely. These plugs can be connected to your smartphone or voice assistant, allowing you to turn on or off devices with ease.” This two-pack of smart plugs by Kasa adds voice control and scheduling power to your existing outlets, helping you to save money on your energy bill by cutting power to appliances when you don’t need it.


An upgrade to your existing window treatment hardware

You can upgrade your window treatments on the cheap just by switching out the hardware, which can give them a whole new look. Cherniak says, “This simple change can instantly refresh the look of your windows and enhance the overall aesthetic of your space.” Try something like this curtain rod, which comes in five design-forward finishes, including antique bronze and soft gold. Choose from three adjustable sizes to achieve just the right fit for your windows — all the necessary hardware for installation is included.

  • Available finishes: 5
  • Available sizes: 3


These throw pillow covers that add a pop of color

Neutral decor might still be hanging on, but when it comes to quick and effective home upgrades, don’t shy away from color. Cherniak says, “Add a pop of color and comfort to your living room or bedroom with decorative throw pillows. These affordable accessories can instantly update the look of your furniture and create a cozy atmosphere.” This four-pack of velvet throw pillow covers is all you need to add brightness and texture to your home, and the contrasting piped edges add a polished feel. And with nine color combinations to choose from, you can’t go wrong adding these to your cart.

  • Available colors: 9
  • Available sizes: 8


A wall mirror that does more than just hang

Wall mirrors are not just (obviously) functional, but a powerful home decor tool as well. “Hang wall mirrors strategically to create the illusion of a larger space and reflect natural light,” Cherniak says. “Mirrors can also serve as decorative elements and add depth to your rooms,” he adds. This hanging wall mirror features gold hardware and hangs from a delicate but sturdy chain, adding immediate style to any room. It’s beloved by reviewers, with a 4.6-star overall rating on Amazon.

  • Available sizes: 3


These matching nonslip hangers that reduce closet chaos

Lauren Saltman is the founder of Living. Simplified., which provides organizing services in New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts. She stresses that matching hangers are a must-have in any closet. “No matter what type of hanger you like, be sure to get ones that match. Having uniform-color hangers helps to see what you have in your closet and decreases the visual clutter in an area that is very busy,” she explains. This 20-pack of slim, space-saving hangers creates more room in your closet for even better organization. The hangers are made with nonslip felt for a secure hold, and have horizontal bars for accessories.

  • Available colors: 7


A rack that stops you from piling shoes on top of each other

For a clutter-free closet, Saltman says, “Use a shoe rack to get your shoes off the floor and no longer have them in a jumbled pile.” But before buying, she advises you to “count the pairs of shoes you are keeping (remember to declutter first!) and then find a shoe rack that holds that number of shoes.” This three-tier shoe rack holds up to nine pairs, but is also available in options with up to six tiers of storage. It’s made with sturdy yet decor-friendly bamboo wood. You can also grab a few racks and place them side by side for an aesthetically pleasing storage solution.

  • Available options: 12


The in-drawer knife organizer that doesn’t take up counter space

Saltman says that if you’re looking to create extra counter space in the kitchen, “Add a drawer knife organizer [...] to hold your knives that were previously in a knife block.” Not only will it “make it easier to prep your food at meal time” but it will keep your knives contained and tidy while being discreetly tucked away. This knife organizer comes in two sizes, and features an angled handle rest to keep the blades pointed down as well as a slot dedicated specifically for a sharpener. It’s made with natural bamboo to blend in seamlessly with your drawer.

  • Available options: 2


A magnetic knife holder that mounts to your wall

If in-the-drawer knife storage isn’t an option due to space limitations, don’t stress. Saltman says, “If you don't have empty drawer space, consider using a magnetic strip on the wall,” as it frees up counter space and drawer space. This magnetic knife holder is made from acacia wood with neodymium magnets that can support up to 25 pounds of weight. It can be secured to your wall with the included screws or adhesive backing. Use it in the garage for holding tools, as well.


The under-sink organizers that don’t get in the way of plumbing

Saltman says, “Whether under your kitchen sink or your bathroom sink, taking advantage of the height of the space (and avoiding all the plumbing) is a great way to store items,” which makes this organizer by Simple Houseware a must-have. She says, “Try adding under-sink-drawers to hold everything in the kitchen from sponges and cleaning supplies to shampoo and soaps in the bathroom.” This under-the-sink organizer is available in multiple heights and features a slim profile that won’t get in the way of any pipes.

  • Available options: 3


The extendable shelf organizers for more efficient pantry storage

According to Saltman, “The pantry is the powerhouse of the kitchen, holding back stock of food items, various appliances, and even extra cookware.” To maximize storage for all those items, she recommends starting with these expandable shelf organizers that add stair-step storage for double or triple the amount of space. They can be extended sideways, depending on your cabinet size, and the tiered design makes it easy to spot items in the back.

  • Available options: 4


A lazy Susan that gives you better access to items

Lazy Susans like this one are anything but lazy, turning static storage spaces into rotating shelves and giving you “better access to corners,” as Saltman points out. Available in two and four packs, this set of storage turntables provides spinning storage wherever you need it, especially in pantries, cabinets, and even refrigerators. The nonslip surface and raised edges ensure items stay securely in place.


A cart on wheels to store your back stock

If you tend to shop in bulk and have excess food taking up space in your pantry, Saltman recommends using a “large bin on wheels to hold unopened back stock of bulk items.” This wheeled three-tier cart is a great option that’s easy on the wallet, too. The top and bottom baskets are removable, and thanks to its four wheels, it’s easy to maneuver when it’s time to restock and replenish. Plus, it can hold up to 66 pounds.

  • Available colors: 2


This all-purpose cleaning paste that helps you save money

Mark Buskuhl, owner of Ninebird Properties in Dallas, gives great advice when it comes to deep-cleaning your home. He says, “If you're looking to clean your home without spending a fortune, all-purpose cleaners are the way to go,” adding to, “Look for ones that have multisurface capabilities and a pleasant scent to make cleaning more enjoyable.” The Pink Stuff fits the bill. Thie “miracle” cleaning paste really does it all and smells like fresh rhubarb, too. Not only does it work on all surfaces — wood, stainless steel, marble, and more — but it can tackle stubborn stains like permanent marker and tough shower grime, all without leaving scratches behind.


This eco-friendly paper towel swap

Buskuhl recommends ditching expensive and wasteful paper towels and opting for microfiber cleaning cloths instead, saying, “These handy tools are perfect for dusting, wiping down surfaces, and even cleaning windows without leaving streaks.” He adds, “They are also reusable, making them a more sustainable and cost-effective option for cleaning your home.” So grab this 12-pack of microfiber cleaning cloths that’s earned an impressive 4.7-star overall rating on Amazon. The washable towels feature reinforced edges for durability and they won’t leave lint behind. You’ll save on money and waste while achieving impressive cleaning results.

  • Available colors: 5


A damage-free alternative to nails & hammers for hanging your favorite pieces

“Hanging up decor or organizing items around the house doesn't have to involve drilling holes and damaging walls,” says Buskhul. Instead, he recommends Command strips that offer “a damage-free solution that is easy to apply and remove.” Plus, they’re super versatile — “They come in various sizes and weight capacities, allowing you to hang anything from picture frames to shelves without damaging your walls,” he explains. They bond to smooth surfaces and feature a sturdy Velcro-style design that keeps hefty items securely in place. When you’re ready to remove them, they won’t leave residue behind.


A colorful or textured rug to spruce up your space

Want to know an easy way to instantly upgrade any room? Buskuhl recommends a “simple swap of an area rug,” because it can add “warmth, texture, and personality to a room without breaking the bank.” This shag area rug is available in 14 different colors and several sizes, making it easy to find the perfect one for your space. Plus, its plush and fluffy texture is super comfortable underfoot, but won’t shed all over your floors.

  • Available colors: 14
  • Available sizes: 4


These drawer dividers that keep small items organized

Buskhul says, “Invest in some inexpensive drawer organizers to keep your items neat and easily accessible.” This four-pack of drawer dividers lets you see your kitchen utensil inventory at a quick glance, making meal prep much less frustrating in the moment. Plus, you can also use them in dresser drawers to separate clothes. Highly rated, the organic bamboo set is available in three colors and expands from 17.5 to 22 inches to fit a variety of drawer sizes.

  • Available colors: 3


This shower curtain that resists mildew stains

“For a quick bathroom upgrade, consider swapping out your old shower curtain liner with a new one,” says Buskuhl. “Not only will it freshen up the look of your bathroom, but it can also help prevent mold and mildew growth.” He recommends looking for liners that are antimicrobial, like this mildew-resistant curtain liner. It’s complete with rustproof grommets and magnetic weights to keep it in place.

  • Available colors: 2


A layer of fresh paint for pizzazz that instantly transforms your space

Courtney Batten, interior designer at Paige Studio in Dallas, Texas, says, “By far, the home upgrade with the most bang for your buck is fresh paint. Painting a room can completely change the look and feel and how light interacts with the space.” And if you’re intimidated by the process, she says, “You don't even need to paint a whole room to have a large impact — an accent wall or detail can transform a space for just the cost of a can of paint and a paintbrush.” This all-in-one paint and primer is a great option since the formula makes any job a one-and-done effort. It comes in more than 50 colors and dries in just 30 minutes.

  • Available colors: 56
  • Available sizes: 6


This set of cabinet knobs that can refresh any room

Batten tends to think of hardware as the “jewelry of the room” saying, “new cabinet hardware is an easy and inexpensive option to refresh a kitchen, bathroom, or even a tired piece of furniture.” These cabinet knobs are available in six different finishes, including champagne bronze, heirloom silver, and soft iron.

  • Available finishes: 6
  • Available sizes: 7


A vase filled with fresh florals or branches

Batten says, “There's something about fresh greenery or flowers that just makes a space feel elevated, and you don't need an expensive floral arrangement to achieve a Pinterest-worthy look.” To do it on the cheap, she recommends “grabbing your favorite vase and filling it with grocery store florals or even a branch arrangement from your backyard...” Don’t have a favorite vase? Let this luxe infinity vase woo you. Available in four colors, the modern silhouette and ribbed surface make it a great addition to any room.

  • Available colors: 4


These drain clog removers that save you tons of money

Mark Brunke, General Manager at Environmental Plumbing in Ottawa, says that drain snakes make for the perfect weapon against drain clogs. “‘If you have stubborn drain clogs, these are a quick and easy solution to restore flow! They pick up clumps of hair and soap scum that might have gotten stuck,” he explains. Not to mention, they’re a fraction of the cost of having a plumber come out to clear your drain for you. This set includes three 20-inch clog removers that are flexible to reach around curved pipes. The barbs on each one easily trap gunk and hair, so you can pull it out.


This showerhead that gives your bathroom a spa feel

“When it comes to easy home fixes under $35, one of my favorites is switching out regular showerheads for rainfall showerheads,” says Eric Bramlett, owner of Bramlett Residential in Austin. He adds, “They're a breeze to install yourself and really change up the feel of a bathroom.” This showerhead is available in a whopping 33 finishes and styles, and it’s earned a stellar 4.7-star overall rating after 49,000 reviews on Amazon. It provides a high-pressure, rainfall shower experience and is super quick and easy to install.

  • Available styles: 33


This peel & stick backsplash that’s like a kitchen reno for cheap

For a super quick — and wallet-friendly — kitchen refresh, Bramlett recommends adding a peel-and-stick backsplash. Available in seven different tile and “grout” combos, each set includes 10 sheets of self-adhesive sheets that are enough for over 8 feet of coverage. It’s much easier and cheaper than actual tiling (and grout work) — just quite literally peel and stick.

  • Available styles: 7


An over-door organizer that’s like having an extra pantry

If you’re looking to maximize your storage space, sometimes you have to think outside the box, or in this case, over the door. Using an over-door organizer like this one by ClosetMaid, “can give you a lot of floor and counter space and will make your kitchen look spacious,” says Tommy Mello, owner of A1 Garage Door Service. This one can be hung over any door in your home to instantly add eight shelves of storage space — a total game-changer for clutter. Plus the shelves are removable and height adjustable, so you can store small items and big items alike.

  • Available colors: 2